- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

CAIRO (AP) — Al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader issued a worldwide call yesterday for Muslims to rise up in a holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from “Spain to Iraq.”

In the message broadcast by Al Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahri, second in command to Osama bin Laden, said that al Qaeda now views “all the world as a battlefield open in front of us.”

The Egyptian-born physician said that the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and Palestinian militants would not be ended with “cease-fires or agreements.”

“It is a jihad for the sake of God and will last until [our] religion prevails … from Spain to Iraq,” al-Zawahri said, using the Arabic word meaning holy war. “We will attack everywhere.”

Spain was controlled by Muslims for more than seven centuries until they were driven from power in 1492.

Al-Zawahri spoke in a secret but state-of-the-art broadcast studio, with professional lighting, a crisp sound system and a backdrop that included an image of the World Trade Center in flames.

He said Arab regimes were accomplices to Israel.

“My fellow Muslims, it is obvious that Arab and Islamic governments are not only impotent but also complicit … and you are alone on the battlefield. Rely on God and fight your enemies … make yourselves martyrs.”

He also called for the “downtrodden” throughout the world, not just Muslims, to join the battle against “tyrannical Western civilization and its leader, America.”

Kamal Habib, a former member of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad militant group who was jailed from 1981 to 1991 along with al-Zawahri, said the al Qaeda No. 2’s outreach to Shi’ites and non-Muslims was unprecedented and reflected a major change in tactics.

“This is a transformation in the vision of al Qaeda and its struggle with the United States. It is now trying to unite Sunni Muslims, Shi’ite Muslims and calling for non-Muslims to join the fight,” he said.

Al-Zawahri wore a gray robe and white turban in the video. Photos of two other militants were on the wall behind him along with the World Trade Center picture.

The Arab satellite station did not transmit the entire tape, using instead selected quotes interspersed with commentary from an anchor.

The message was al-Zawahri’s tenth this year. Bin Laden has issued five.

Al-Zawahri last appeared in a video posted on an Islamic Web site on the first anniversary of the train bombings in London. In the July 7 tape, he said two of the four suicide bombers in London had spent time in an al Qaeda training camp, preparing themselves for a suicide mission.

There was little reaction from the Arab world to the broadcast. One exception was Lebanon, whose finance minister said yesterday that Israel’s incursion into southern Lebanon has encouraged al Qaeda to come to the region.

“The Lebanese government has fought [al Qaeda] action and infiltration in the past. Now they have an alibi to destabilize our country. We don’t believe in them. But these disastrous pictures, this is how you bring them in,” he said of foreign insurgents.

Staff reporter Betsy Pisik contributed to this report from Beirut.

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